Of Elephants, Donkeys, Dragons and Men: Thinking about how China Perceives the U.S. Perception of China

Street-side advertisement for the November issue of Vista Magazine, Kunming, China 2012

It’s been over a month since U.S. citizens went to polling stations and exercised their right to elect representatives to office.  Having cast my absentee ballot in September, I watched the lead up to the election half-heartedly, frustrated by bad Chinese internet connections, and without the possibility to change my vote. Thirteen hours ahead of EST, I woke up on Wednesday, November 7th to hear political pundits on NPR (the only reliable stream available) go on about the feasibility of a Romney victory. And then, quickly it was over.

For U.S-observers here, it wasn’t entirely surprising that China played a significantly more prominent role in comparison to previous presidential elections (see graph below). For example, in the third presidential debate on foreign policy, “the China question” even closed down the show (what no Europe?). Obama and Romney’s responses differed only by degree, both highlighting the precariousness of Sino-U.S. bilateral relations and recapitulating a tried image: China, while a potential global partner, is mostly a threat, to the economy and trade, national and regional security, intellectual property, and the list goes on. Strangely, (perhaps even tellingly?), in his introduction to this line of questioning, Bob Scheiffer, the debate moderator, seamlessly sequewayed from an initial China reference to ask the candidates: “What do you believe is the greatest future threat to national security?”

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